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Advantage: Smiths

Monday, April 14, 2008

Twin sisters lead Storm Lake tennis hopes, and are equally impressive off the court

Staci Maloy has coached twin sisters Kelly and Abby Smith for four years in both tennis and volleyball - and when it comes to her senior tennis co-captains, she just can't choose.

So Kelly will play the number one singles slot for the first half of the season as Abby holds down number two - then they will switch positions for a second pass through the conference foes.

But where the senior sisters really shine is playing together in doubles. "It's really fun playing doubles. We tend to talk to each other a lot, but we wouldn't have to - we pretty much know where the other is going to be and what the other one will do," Abby says.

"One thing we have in common is that we aren't the most coordinated girls in the world," Kelly adds. "Both of us will be on the ground at some point in the match - with lots of scrapes."

Not that their games are mirror images.

"She's like a backboard. No matter you hit at her, she'll send it right back," Abby says of Kelly. "I'm more of the placement player."

They didn't cut their teeth on tennis courts - the two leaders of the Storm Lake tennis team picked up raquets for the first time ever as high school freshmen, and their games really only came together last year. Midway through the season, they teamed for the first time as a doubles pair.

Kelly bloomed first last year to be a force for Storm Lake, and Abby has stepped her game up at the beginning of this season.

"They are great athletes, and very coachable," Maloy says of the twins. "They have integrity and a lot of desire to win, and they also have great attitudes on and off the court.

"The whole team votes on who will be captains, and it was pretty much unanimous for both of them this year."

When the other girls get distracted by social matters, the Smiths bring focus.

"They will be the ones who say, 'Come on guys, we're at tennis here,'" Maloy laughs. "These two do come to practice ready to play."

Maloy makes a point of not trying to be pals with with her players, but she admits that a bond has formed with the Smith girls that goes well beyond the court and the gym.

"They know they can come to me with anything, and we have a lot of fun just talking," she says.

"One is very gentle, and the other is the kind of person who is like, 'If you're going to hit something at me, you better be prepared to get it back.' They complement each other as people."

Maloy looks for the girls to go a long way in doubles this year. Kelly and Abby both long to get to State before they leave SLHS, but in the road is a very strong team of seniors from Spencer and a talented pair of freshmen at Spirit Lake who are expected to be their main competition.

Don't look for this team to be split up - both sisters plan to enroll at UNI next year, and as freshmen they hope to play in the intercollegiate club tennis program there.

"I will miss them when they graduate," their coach says. "We've already had that conversation many times."

When the Smith girls aren't taking it to the Lakes Conference competition, you will probably find them on a court pounding the ball at each other.

"Yeah, we are really competitive," Abby giggles, admitting that they do keep careful track of who is winning the most.

They get along wonderfully - well, usually. "We can be kind of violent on each other," Abby says.

"She actually said that? Well, it's just a sibling kind of thing," Kelly responds.

Abby's goal is to make All-Conference this year, and Kelly hopes to make it to State, after watching two girls she had beaten last year make the big meet. Their best chance, they both feel, is as a doubles team. The cold, wet spring has put them behind, however, costing the Tornadoes a lot of court time.

Kelly is happy that the sisters discovered tennis when they hit high school.

"It's hard to describe - it's an individual sport but at the same time it's a team sport, and I really love that about tennis," she said.

"You get really close to all of the girls on the team - we are together almost all the time."

It's a bonus to be able to spend the time with her sister.

"Playing with Abby, we keep each other happy. In volleyball, you can get mad and fired up and play better, but in tennis, you need to always be in control."

The Smiths bring out the best in each other, even away from sports.

"She's always so real. If you just meet her or if you have known her forever, Abby is always Abby," Kelly says. "I tend to procrastinate, and she's the one who always has her schoolwork done. It's almost like she's my alarm clock - she makes sure I get things done when necessary."

In turn, Kelly tends to be a little more outgoing and Abby a little more shy, so Kelly's adventure-loving spontenaity rubs off a bit, too.

The girls are not identical twins, but they are used to people everywhere asking them if they are sisters or twins. "We have personalities of our own though, and we stress that," Abby says. Sometimes people tend to think we are one and the same."

Still, there is plenty in common besides varsity jerseys. "We live by the lake and we both absolutely love the water - swimming, boating, skiing, you name it," they say.

And one other thing that sisters (and brother Ethan) thrive on...

"Our parents," they agreed. "No matter what we are doing, they are there and they are supportive."

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